Thursday, December 6, 2007

Final Assignment

Hello for the last time,

Hi Adam, here's the final assignment for the summer semester course. I had an enjoyable time working with you and I'd like to wish you all the best with both your current thesis and future endeavors. Here's the assignment, another copy has been emailed to you.

The readings for this session (Marc Prensky’s “Emerging online life of the digital native’ and Dave Weinbergers’ ‘A New World”) both present different views of contemporary internet users. In light of your own experiences with new technologies do you think they are accurate portrayals? Discuss why or why not with specific examples.

Two distinct views of how people adapt to the internet and their usage of it are those of Prensky (2004) who discusses ‘digital natives’ using the internet to communicate freely and happily and Weinberger (2002) with his view that the internet is so different to the physical world, so chaotic, that it is changing the way in which we communicate with the world around us. He suggests that the internet is basically just another tool with which people use to communicate with each other. This paper will examine these two approaches and discuss whether one is more accurate than the other or whether there are other reasons and explanations.

Change, and how people cope with it, has long been researched and commented on by both professionals such as sociologists and psychologists, as well as the ordinary person in the street. They attempt to describe both what change is as well as how different people cope with it, usually in an attempt to understand how some people cope easily and enjoy change and others are annoyed or so distressed by it that they choose to reject the new process.

One of the biggest changes to modern life has been the introduction of the means of fast and international communication via the internet. From its earliest days the internet has evolved from a curiosity used only by scientists and the military to an everyday item used, and abused, by vast numbers of people (Slevin, 2000; Surratt, 2001).

While Prensky’s view of the digital native is an excellent description of people who are naturally comfortable with new technologies, where his argument fails is in his division of people into either young students, digital natives and older people, the digital immigrants. He actually divides them into students and parents in his paper which tends to position his argument solely into a world where students (natives) are young and rebellious and parents (immigrants) are old-fashioned and unable to keep up.

Prensky writes that a person not born into the digital world not only is not comfortable with the technology of the internet but in fact uses it differently and to a lesser extent than the natives. He suggests that the use of blogs (diaries on the web) by the immigrants is different to those of the natives. The immigrants use them as an intellectual sharing tool rather than a diary usage of personal thoughts and experiences, ‘emotion vs intellect’.

However, it seems that he ignores the thousands of people other than students, using blogs as diaries and social networking. Feizy (2007) found that Myspace alone had 186 million accounts and the top ten social networking sites have grown 47% in the last year, giving over 132 million users just in these alone Given these large numbers it is surely limiting to say they are only being used by teens. ( ).

It is interesting to note that a simple and quick search produced a shared diary for an organization for women over fifty ( ), a site for people discussing camping ( ), a forum for parents with new babies ( ) and a site for people with a particular medical condition ( . Of the people using these sites, most are definitely older than their teens and are using the sites for socializing, sharing information and diary use.

In support of this, Feizy found that only 62% of profiles on Myspace were people between teens and early twenties while Hargittai (2007) found that the use of these sites is not restricted to a particular group and that participation has more to do with gender, race and ethnicity. It is interesting though that many still view these sites as being solely for young people. Godwin (2006) describes Myspace as the teenage social site but then goes on to describe Facebook as the academic social networking site. Using the term ‘academic’ suggests people across a range of ages.

Hills and Briggs (2006) are currently studying a sample of users in a social networking community and state the age range is 15 – 55. They plan to explore the relationships between age and personality development, suggesting that usage of these sites reflects systematic personality changes that are observable over a person’s lifespan, that in fact it may be just another manifestation of normal human development. Kittinger (2007) goes further, he suggests that the reason that there are some who thrive in this new environment and some who are preyed upon and eventually vanish is more to do with evolution than anything else; survival of the fittest in the virtual jungle.

Buckingham (2006) believes that the distinction between ages needs to be reworked, that even in computer games, which are frequently identified as being for children only, it was found that the average age of game players is now 30 years. He goes on to say that maybe the term ‘digital generation’ is more appropriate, defined through its relationship with a particular technology rather than simply the age of the user.

Weinberger’s point of view of the internet and its effect on people has more to do with how it has changed communication. He considers that the internet is basically just another tool that people use, along with all other modes of communication and that the internet is a process rather than an end in itself. However, he goes on to say that while at first greater freedom to communicate would indicate greater freedom for communication, this tool is actually causing problems. With greater freedom comes greater responsibility; as time passes and more people get connected to the internet the demand for regulation will grow.

While Prensky describes his natives as participating in a range of creative activities, sharing information and meeting each other on the internet, he omits to mention any of the negatives of this behaviour. Weinberger takes the view that not all people on the internet are using it for their own and others good, that many times people have difficulty in drawing the line between private and public communication as well as what is real and what is not. He continues by describing how this blurring of divisions affects just about every part of the internet, that our expectations are upset and that there are so many anomalies that we are fatigued by them.

This perspective is supported by Savolainen (2007) who discusses information overload and the strategies users must adopt to cope with the large amount of information gained by using the internet. He found that people use two major strategies to cope with this, filtering the information or withdrawing from it.

It is interesting to note however, that Anderson and Tracey (2002) found that use of the internet and the impact of it on people’s lives was more to do with lifestyle and life stages rather than just the acquisition of a connection. People were more likely to use it to do something in particular, that people shouldn’t be classified generically as internet users and that the average internet user does not exist. Buckingham supports this by stating that most people are not interested in the technology as such but in what they can do with it.

It is suggested that the biggest change people experience as they use the internet is the way in which they view themselves and their world. Weinberger suggests that the internet is in fact changing the concepts of what we used to take for granted as defining self. Networking technologies and virtual spaces have allowed people to become free from the physical world that binds them, and allows us them recreate their ideal selves without any of the limitations faced in physical form.

Feizy supports this when she describes how many users of social networking sites hide their location, use fabricated names and will often use a fake photo or image. This can be observed across a range of social networking sites. For example, in a group of university students currently using blogs to post assignments, some used a fabricated name, location and interests in their user profile where others used their own name, personal details and real images. There was no discussion regarding why some would choose to use their own personal details and some would not, the group automatically accepted it as the individual’s choice.

Prensky, in his description of his digital natives socializing on the internet describes them as believing the online contacts are as real as any face-to-face ones. He actually continues by suggesting that because the online relationships are only based on what is said and produced on the screen, ‘lookism status’, without any of the other social cues that come with face-to-face contact, that somehow these will be more reputable.

In the group of university students mentioned above, all were able to meet face-to-face, however, some still used fabricated identities even though there was no attempt to hide either their blog or their identity and without any consideration that either real name or fabricated name blog had more authenticity than the other.

Wong (2000) takes this a step further and describes how identity on the internet has become mobile, that this is not so much freedom but rather a way of transcending bodily prejudices. However, she continues by stating that even though the mobility of identity can allow for more acceptances of experimentation and ambiguity, it can also create more anxiety.

Prensky and his digital natives and immigrants has divided the users of the internet into either young students immersing themselves happily and successfully into it and their older parents adapting with difficulty and suspicion. He further takes this to suggest that the digital natives have used their online life as an entire strategy for how to live, survive and thrive, that without it they don’t exist. He also considers that there is such a difference between how his two groups use the internet that it creates dissonance and disconnectedness.

Others, such as Weinberger, Feizy and Savolainen, however don’t take such an extreme and pessimistic view. They consider that while the internet and its constraints force people to do things differently, that age does not play such a large part in these differences but rather the use that people put it to, the internet is just another tool in their daily lives.

Just like any aspect of human life, the internet is constantly changing and evolving as people adapt it to suit themselves and their needs. Because of this and because the changes are so rapid, there is no one way in which to define a typical user. While Prensky divides his users into natives and immigrants using age as the defining factor, it would be truer to say that this alone does not define a user. Just as humans are all different ages, educational backgrounds, genders, races in the real world, so too will they be different, whether through the use of real profiles or fabricated ones, when using the internet.


Anderson. B. & Tracy, K. (2001) The impact (or otherwise) of the internet on everyday British life. In Wellman, B., & Haythornthwaite, C. (Eds). (2002). The internet in everyday life. Bodmin: Blackwell Publishers Ltd.

Buckingham, D. (2006). Is there a digital generation? In Buckingham, D., & Willett, R. (Eds). (2006). Digital generations. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc.

Feizy, R. (2007). An evaluation of identity on online social networking:Myspace. Retrieved 6 December ,2007, from

Godwin, P. (2006). Information literacy in the age of amateurs. Retrieved 6 December, 2007, from.

Hargattai, E. (2007). Whose space? Differences among users and non-users of social network sites. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1). (Electronic version).

Hills, T. & Briggs, C. (2006). Age-related Differences in online social networking Retrieved 6 December, 2007, from

Kittinger, R. (2007) Social behaviour of internet users.
Retrieved 6 December, 2007, from

Prensky. M. (2004). The emerging online life of the digital native. Retrieved 6 December, 2007, from

Savolainen, R. (2007) Filtering and withdrawing: strategies for coping with informatin overload in everyday contexts. Journal of Information Science, California: Sage Pubications. Vol 33, Iss. 5 (Electronic Version)

Slevin, J. (2000). The internet and society. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Surratt, C. (2001). The internet and social change. North Carolina: McFarland & Company.

Weinberger, D. (2002). Small pieces loosely joined. Retrieved 6 December, 2007, from

Wong, A. (2000) Cyberself, identity, language and stylisation on the internet. In Gibbs, D. & Krause, K. (Eds). (2000). Cyberlines, languages and cultures of the internet. Albert Park : James Nicholas Publishers.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Course Review

As a part of our course we have been requested to write a bit about our thoughts on the course.

I must congratulate Adam Muir on his running of the course, he managed to make the lectures interesting by allowing the class to have open discussions about the topic while at the same time being able to apply what was being discussed back to the lecture topic. Having only ever experienced courses from the business faculty which is focused on work related topics which have right and wrong answers, it was a nice change being able to talk about topics many of which had multiple possible answers, or perhaps no answer at all.

I found the topics to be interesting not only from the perspective of a business student with the open source/free software available to use, but from a personal perspective, due to the fact that none of the people I know really show any interest in the philosophical questions of life the universe and everything, apart from quoting the Hitchhikers Guide by shouting '42' when the conversation turns to the topic. I found it a pleasantly intellectually stimulating experience being able to voice my thoughts and ideas to students from different faculties.

The fact that everyone had a good time and the course material was covered I'd have to give Adam 'a high distinction' for his teaching style and his management of the course.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Final Course Overview Lecture

Hello again,

Today we had a very quick and basic overview of the past 2 weeks. We started off by talking about the the various topics that we covered in the lectures and the discussions we covered. We started the week with defining what communication is and how communication it's changing. Then we looked at what is technology and how technology is changing the ways in which we communicate.

The next lecture was about the history of computers, starting with Charles Babbage who is said to have been the inventory of one of the first rudimentary computer with is Difference Engine, and at a later date he was also aided by Ada Byron, who had a creative approach to mathematics. We looked at various companies who were around at the beginning of computing like Xerox PARC, Apple Computers, IBM and Microsoft. Next we looked at a brief history of the internet, who invented it and how it came about with the introduction of the ARPANET. The lecture notes culminate in looking at some of the various applications that a lot of people were using, such as email, FTP and IRC.

The third week was focused on the development of the methods used to study new communication technologies. Starting in the 1920's with Bullet (inoculation) Theory, 1930's Application of Statistical Method, then in the 1940's with Minimum Effects, the 1950's Looking for effects with connections to psychology, in the 1960's with Marshall McLuhan and his Understanding Media, on to the 1970's with Mixed Effects theory and Louis Althusser who theorized the media as Ideological State Apparatuses, then into the 1980's with Baudrillard who theorized that the real was represented, now the hyper real was simulated. In the 1990's Nancy Fraser further criticises Habermas's account of the public sphere from a feminist perspective and in particular for its failures to confront the needs to eliminate social inequality, to accept a multiplicity of public, to break down the distinctions between public and private and to integrate the state and civil society. The lecture then looked at the various phases of how media studies have developed over time, beginning with Popular Cyberculture, through Cyberculture Studies, to Critical Cyberculture Studies.

The fourth session was on virtual philosophy, in which we looked at the Allegory of Plato's Cave, the philosophical questions raised by the movie series 'The Matrix'. We looked at the various philosophers theories that have developed over time such as, Guy Debord - Society of Spectacle; Umberto Eco's - Hyper-reality; Jean Baudrillard's - Simulacrum; William Gibson's - Cyberspace as a Consensual Hallucination; and Giles Deleuze and Felix Guattari's - Becoming Media. The lecture then looked at the concept of Virtual Reality, it's precursors and what defines VR, and it's possible future uses.

Next we looked at the current and emerging technologies and the advent of computer games. We covered applications like Instant Messaging and how it's advent has changed the ways in which we communicate, Peer-to-Peer and file sharing, which brought up the question of copyrights and piracy and the various ways people avoid detection using things like proxy servers and the TOR (The Onion Router) network, through to Voice over IP or VoIP and how this technology is being utilized. The lecture then moved on to computer games and the two paradigms of Narratology and Ludology. Narratology is the study of video games from the perspective of them being stories or literary works. Ludology in contrast, is not concerned with the story elements but rather with the Game and Play elements. We then went on to look at other methods used in the study of games.

The following day we were focused on the concept of free or open source software. We looked at the various organizations that are involved in the open source movement such as, the Free Software Foundation -; The Creative Commons - ; and the Electronic Frontier Foundation - We watched a video with Richard Stallman talking about the creative commons licenses and what it means for the future development of software and creative arts.

This linked nicely to the following day's topic of Digital Creativity and how the future of copyrights and the internet is going to affect how we make and distribute content onto the web. We looked at things like the AMV (Anime Music Videos) where people take two proprietary mediums, being the music and the anime video, and combine them to make a music video but aligned with the anime timed to match the music. We also touched briefly on Project Gutenberg and the public domain materials. We finished the lecture with a discussion on electronic music and what defines it, how people are making it now and how it will be made in the future.

The next day we had a look at the Cyber Democracy. We started by defining what democracy means, with it coming down to the fact that there are many different kinds and definitions for democracy, such as representational democracy, direct democracy and radical democracy. We touched on the topic of the digital divide and whether the gap between the haves and have nots is shrinking or growing. Then we looked at the Gaps in the Mass Media, with a number of theorists coming up with various opinions, such as what Habermas calls 'the Public Sphere'. Marshall McLuhan's argument of electricity does not centralize, it decentralizes, and John Hartley systematized the political import of audience reception theory when he notes that post-modernity has seen the transformation of what constitutes 'knowledge' for the coercive instrumentality and enforced reality of 'imperial information' to the hermeneutics of intertextual intersubjectivity where meanings are liable to constant negotiations.

The lecture then looked at Free Speech and Censorship with a rather interesting quote from John Gilmore at the start of the section 'The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it'. We looked at the rights we have as Australian citizens and as citizens of the internet, and the concept of the Citizen-Hacker which is taking the traditional concept of the computer hacker who uses the rules of the system to their advantage and applying it to us in a national setting, where we can inform ourselves of the rules and then manipulate the system to our advantage, be it through political pressure or by organizing a political interest group.

The second last lecture was on the question of whether these new technologies will usher in the new age of the Cyber-Utopia, where everything is great and we won't have to worry about anything because it's all be taken care of or will it turn out to be a Cyber-Dystopia, where we are controlled by the technology or it is used to control us. We looked at the concept of the Media Ages, starting with the first (electronic) media age, which Mark Poster argues was characterized by the use of one source (or relatively few) with many receivers, into the second (electronic) media age which is characterized by distributed systems of interaction. Marshall McLuhan suggested that there are three media ages beginning with the Oral (spoken work); then the Literate(written words); then to the Electric (televisual/digital). A student of McLuhan went on to suggest that there were a further two media ages, being the 'mimetic age' and the 'interactive/digital age'.

We went on to look at the varied literature that has been written over the years looking at various theories on what kind of the future technology will bring. We looked at Utopian authors such as Plato's 'The Republic', Sir Thomas More's 'Utopia'. This concept of a technological Utopia where we can create, a microcosmic recreation of nature sanitized and optimized for human consumption/enjoyment. Then we looked at Dystopia authors such as Aldous Huxley's 'Brave New World', and George Orwell's '1984'. In most of the literature it seems that even in a Utopian society the peace is disrupted by people who seek to exercise their own human agency and free will.

Which brings us to today's summary of the course, which is what you've just read. :)

Well that's it for another post. Stay frosty.

The Future of The Internet

Today's task was to have a think about what direction the internet is going to take over the next 10 years.

I feel that, as with everything in this world there will always be shades of gray between the many extremes. I think there are going to be some rather interesting times ahead of us.

Due to the way that the western democracies work, it seems that they have built up a reputation of doing nothing, nothing, nothing and then suddenly in one massive knee jerk reaction bring in laws that are way exceed what was needed or even desired. As we've seen in the past governments have also taken this line with censorship.

The real problem that governments face with the internet is that it is a decentralized global system that does not follow the strict rule of country borders. Therefore to effectively police the system you need to have a set of laws that will be applied globally, otherwise you just get the situation that we have at the moment where countries like America, who are shutting down sites that host questionable material, but the people are just moving the sites to countries who will allow them to continue. This brings us the the reciprocal trade agreements we talked about yesterday where America is trying to trade on their intellectual property but are having problems with people just taking their ideas and just producing it cheaper than the American people are willing to make it for and not sending any of the profits back.

I came across a rather interesting development a little while ago, which I though was unique in it's common sense approach to copyrights. Basically in countries over in eastern Europe where 'piracy' is quite rampant the movie studios have developed this idea of the R5 copy. Basically an R5 copy of a movie is a kind of lower quality rip of the movie which is leaked/released by the studios when they release the movies to the cinemas, this allows the people who will 'pirate' the movie anyway access to the movie but at a quality which you can watch but it's not something you would burn onto a DVD and keep in your collection. This has circumvented a lot of angst and litigation while the movies studios still retain the revenue from the people who what to see the good version.

Another major issue I think that has some rather wide ranging problems is the issue of net neutrality, or the concept of keeping the internet an uncontrolled environment where people can post what ever they want. This I feel, is going to be quite a major political issue over the coming years as more people get connected and are exposed to the, shall we say, slightly less friendly aspects of the internet. The problem is that we've seemed to have decided to submit ourselves to the rule of others and if we are harmed in anyway we seem to want to blame those people who have been charged with our protection, which has brought about the whole knee jerk reaction I was discussing above. The leader have to be seen to be doing something about this perceived danger, so when they act, it's usually in an exaggerated way.

In regard to the ability to post content onto the internet in the future, I think this will be inevitably tied to the censorship issue. Will governments implement the filters at the personal, ISP, or at the communication network levels? As the new Web 2.0 gets integrated more into how we browse the web I believe that we will see a lot more usage of the tagging systems and RSS feeds, this will allow for much more accurate searches with the results being much more tailored to your own needs. This future was demonstrated in one of the videos we watch in the lectures about the rise of Google and the advent of the program called 'EPIC'.

China is another Pandora's box that is set to be opened in the not to distant future, with more people in China wanting the western style life, they are demanding access to more and more consumer goods, such as computers and the internet. This I think may prove to be the lead hammer that brakes the worlds back, with the rising pollution levels as the Chinese government sinks more money into their industries the rest of the world is going to start to feel the effects. Already there are places in China in which the air is toxic to breath, those people who have the money to move away have, those that don't have to stay and deal with it on a daily basis. In a documentary I watch recently they were filming in a town where the air was so thick with pollution the visibility had dropped to under 20 meters, the health ramifications of living in such a place are staggering. I believe that unless there is a fundamental shift in our belief systems in the 10 years or so, the world as we know it is going to change and not in a good way.

The digital literacy question is another interesting topic as we are already seeing a divide between those who have grow up with the technology in their lives to the older generation who are having to learn new things. As an example, a report I read recently was talking about the fact that the young children in primary school are already at the stage that they have multiple email addresses and Instant Messaging friends all over the globe.

In conclusion I'd have to say that the not to distant future will be a very different place to where we are now, the major issues effecting us will be, the question of net neutrality, governments trying to figure out ways to add censorship of the internet, and the population explosion that will occur and all the problems associated with it on the web if China becomes actively involved in promoting the internet to it's population.

Well I think it's home time for me, Y'all have a good one now ya hear.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Lecture Summary of the Day

Hi out there,

Today's lecture was looking at the ideal and nightmare societies that could evolve due to our embracing of technology, or in other words a Utopia verses Distopia.

The lecture began with two rather interesting quotes, the first from the movie Jurassic Park, "They were so obsessed with the fact that they could do it, they forgot to consider whether they should." This statement considers the ethical question of whether new technologies could be used for this theoretical ideal of 'for a good purpose' as opposed to the questionable practices that could come about such as this question of human cloning. This brings to bear this question of what is considered 'ethical', and can it be applied in a global setting? The real problem is that what is considered ethical, is very much entrenched in the societal norms in that place and time, if something is perfectly legal and acceptable where you live, does that mean it will be acceptable in an other country, or even in the same place but in a years time.

This was perfectly demonstrated in the movie "Alphaville" which we watch a portion of at the end of the lecture, every character in the movie smoked cigarettes, which at that time was a normal thing to do, if we were to move the story of the movie into present times it would not be allow to be screened because everyone smoked. This demonstrates that it is the societal norms in that time and place that dictates what is considered ethical behavior.

This brings us back to today's topic of the development of a societal Utopia through the use of technology. A researcher called Marshall McLuhan, theorized that there are three stages of media development, the oral (spoken word); the literate (written words); and Electric (which is...televisual,digital). A student of McLuhan called Robert K. Logan continued McLuhan's work by stating that he believe that there are a five stages of media ages by adding the 'mimetic age' and the 'interactive/digital age'.

McLuhan's first electronic media age is focused on a few centralized providers disseminating information to many receivers. For multiple reasons, only certain people could produce and send content; there were educational, financial and technical restrictions to those who could produce, and to those who could distribute.

Which brings us to the second (electronic) media age - decentralized interactions. This media age is characterized by distributed systems of interaction. the interactivity of the internet is simultaneously being worked out in associated technologies such as DVD's and Virtual Reality.

This raises the issue of who controls this new media, as postmodernist is built upon modernism, the second media age is build on the first and is therefore depended on the world view inherent in existing technologies. It is this combining of old and new technologies that new industries and uses have developed. With this new media brings a a need for new understandings, political ones in particular, to protect the public interest. Some of the questions that need to be raised are, the means to protect rights of access; equity in access; the means to strengthen and enhance existing community structures; the development of a global community; the development of strategies for developing, implementing and enforcing global laws; international intellectual property laws; and the freedom of speech.

Which brings us back to the lecture topic Utopia verses Dystopia. The statement 'technology itself has often been visualized as Utopia - somewhere we can create, a microcosmic recreation of nature sanitized and optimized for human consumption with all the hazards of life stripped away by the technology'. The question becomes, will this technology provide us with something that is better than our current reality. There are many examples of this in the current media, one of them being the 'Better Than Life' video game from the Red Dwarf TV series, this theme is also looked at in the Matrix movies, where humans have been reduced to living their lives in a digitally created world completely oblivious to their actual surroundings.

The problem with such a society is that if someone or something turns off the power, you may find that your technological utopia is something more akin to a dystopia.

There has been only a few Utopian societies in literature in the 20th century, however there have been quite a few Dystopias, with the works of Aldous Huxley's 'A Brave New World' and George Orwell's '1984', which pointed out that language could be corrupted into 'newspeak' to obscure the truth.

With the development of these new communication technologies comes another set of mythologies, focused on the transcendence of death, nature and humanity, this is dealt with rather well in the 'Ghost In The Shell: SAC' series which is set in the future where cyber-brains and cyborg bodies have become the norm. The show touches on the philosophical question of, what makes us human, is it the body that we exist in which sends electrical signals to our brains so that we can interpret the world around us, or is it the brain itself, and if we can take an image of the brain and a life times worth of experiences and digitize it will it be the person or just a digital representation of the flesh form. Basically can we replace the brain with a computer that holds all our experiences, that can learn in the same way normal brains would and retain what it is that makes us, human.

It seems that even in Utopian societies (in the film word as least) the peace is disrupted by people who seek to exercise their own human agency and free will.

As stated in the lecture notes, nothing epitomizes the cybernautic desire to transcend the body's limitations more than the fantasy of abandoning the flesh and downloading oneself to cyber-immortality.

In conclusion however we choose to view ourselves and the spaces we occupy, virtual or otherwise, with the advent of cyberspace, our conception of the world and ourselves is more than likely to change. Like Copernicus, we are privileged to witness the dawning of a new kind of space. Only time will tell, how we decide to integrate it into our culture.

Well that's it for another entry. Bye

Looking at the Assignment

Hey out there,

As a part of the assessment for this course we are required to write an academic essay on a topic covered in this course. At this stage I'm torn between the first topic which is 'Mark Prensky's "Emerging online life of the digital native" and Dave Weinberger's "A New World" both present different views of contemporary internet users. IN light of your own experiences with new technologies do you think they are accurate portrayals? Discuss why or why not with specific examples; And the last topic which is 'What has happed to the idea of "community" in the age of networked digital media? Discuss.

These two topics appeal to me as they look at how new technologies are being integrated into our daily lives and in that act, are they changing the way we view the world around us with regard to the community. Has the advent of the online communities changed the definition at all? Is it still defined as a group of like minded people getting together to share their thoughts and ideas, just because they don't do it in a face to face setting, does this make it any less of a community? I personally have friends who I've never met but I've got a open invitation to go stay with them if I'm ever in their country, does the fact that we've never seen each other detract from our friendship? These are just some of the ideas that have been rolling around inside my head as I've been going through the course readings, if you have any thoughts on the matter please don't be shy and share. :)

Well that's it for now, till tomorrow for another action packed day.

I'm using this as a dump for some web links I've been coming across so please just ignore the following :P

Internet gives bullies more power,23599,22840745-1702,00.html

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Task of the Day

Hi again,

For today's task we were given a bunch of questions that we had to answer. I missed out on asking the lecture if he wanted us to perform any research on the topics so from a consensus of the people left in the room I went for the personal experiences approach.


Given the conventional wisdom that traditional media are still the dominant form for getting "news" out to the world, do you think the internet will effect the audience for those old media?

I think that the traditional media will find that the going to have to adapt to the new technologies as they become more and more common. Already we are seeing newspaper providers, host the contents of their newspapers free online, they are still manufacturing the news in it's physical form of the traditional newspaper for those people who still want to have something they can hold onto and take with them to places that do not have access to computers, but they recognize that some people desire the information in purely electronic form.

I feel that this will cause a decline in the patronage of the traditional media forms, the content providers have moved their operations to where the people require it, which is online. An added advantage to the new media forms is the ability to update online content on a timely basis where the traditional media is usually a once a day occurrence.

In conclusion I believe that while the advent of new media will detract from the traditional forms of media, there will still remain a requirement for content providers to distribute hard copies to people who may be lodites, (technologically illiterate), when it comes to technology or just want to be able to catch up on the news away from a computer desk.

Check out the local IndyMedia website. What kind of news is there, and do you think a website like that has a place in your life?

From looking around both the local and international website of IndyMedia it appears that the site is dedicated to news article about community activism and the proliferation of the topics that are not being given mass media attention. The articles look to be based heavily on the political process and informing people of what's going on in the world around them. Unfortunately it appears that the Melbourne chapter of the association has closed down to work out what it is they are trying to achieve with the website, however they have left the site active and the archives accessible. There are some interesting articles about the plans to make nuclear power the prime source of electricity in Australia, another article focused on the protests that took place outside the G8 summit over in Germany.

For myself, I try to get my news from several different sources, I guess this is a kind of personal fact checking that I like to do, having found some rather glaring omissions from the local mass media news outlets over the past several years I grew very disenchanted by the commercial outlets. After having read a few articles on the site, they appear to be well written with only a slight political bias and quality photos. So yes, I think I will add this to the list of sites if frequent to get my news, as it has an interesting local focus, but more importantly the site covers things that do not appear readily in the commercial outlets.

Do you think the internet is (was?) an effective tool for politicians to reach out to their intended audience?

I think that the internet is an effective tool for politicians to reach a particular audience. It has been my experience that there is almost what you'd called a sub-culture developing around those who use the internet on a frequent basis and those who do not use it at all or only a very small amount. What this means is that while posting videos and political advertising on the web is an effective way to reach the people who frequent those sites, the problem is that there are so many different web sites out there that the issue is choosing which one to host on.

Therefore audience you reach will be restricted to the kind of people who visit that kind of site. To gain the maximum benefit for their advertising dollar I personally feel that they would be much better off spending their advertising budgets on mass media outlets, but try to find the most popular sites and post your message on those sites.

What do you think about blogs as a way for people to get information out? What about their role as political commentary?

I believe that using blogs is a great way to disseminate information. It is a cheap, efficient way to host information which may or may not have mass media coverage, or information that is specialized. As an example, my mother has recently got into making quilts, it turns out there are hundreds of people out there in blogger land who take great pride in writing tutorials on how to make particular designs, or different methods of sewing, etc.

If those people hadn't taken the time to sit down and write those articles, my mother would have had to find the information some other way, either by paying for it or just simply doing without. This has created a sort of mini-community of quilters who spend their time designing quilt ideas and sharing them with others, they have absolutely no intention of ever making the design, they just gain enjoyment of sharing the design itself, this has lead to design competitions within the community for both people who actually sew the quilts and those who just design the quilts using software.

For myself I have found blogs to be an invaluable tool for finding information about a particular problem with my car. There are surprising quite a few blogger's out there who are more than happy to assist you with a problem, all you have to do is ask. While you will come across a few people who have what I call 'tech arrogance' (they took the time to find out for themselves, so why shouldn't you, kind of attitude), the general feeling I found is a happy and helpful one.

The role of blogs as a political commentary is I think a valid one, it allows us to read the thoughts of many different people so that we can get a more holistic view of the public sentiment. The anonymity that the internet supposedly provides is a very warm blanket for a lot of people who fear reprisals for stating their views. As was demonstrated in one of the course readings, Reporters without Borders(2005) 'A Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber Dissidents', in some countries making comments on the political process can be a very dangerous pass time, blogs allow these people to get their message out to the world while circumventing the laws of their country.

So in conclusion I would say that blogs are an excellent medium for disseminating information not readily available to the general public and as a tool for making political commentaries.

Well that's it for another day, hope to see you all tomorrow.